This post may be nine months late, but it’s still best to have this here.
Uncertainty filled the air as 2020 came rushing into a series of unfathomable concerns. To many of us, the change in our regular routine turned our lives into a pit of never-ending questions and dream-like episodes with a sprinkle of conscious worry here and there.
In my case, I completed the days and weeks with new challenges as I had to continue teaching. As the month of March began, the gush of uncertainties began to enter our rooms as the lock-downs rolled in the passing weeks. With just a few weeks shy of ending the academic year 2019-2020, everyone had to work out new plans to fulfill all pending lessons and requirements online. Adrenaline rushed in to help us finish that race. However, the real marathon was yet to begin.
As we sighed a breath of relief, teachers were suddenly faced with an extra-long summer, working on tons of possibilities in finding the right balance to transitioning the next school year virtually. Luckily, we were able to finish that portion of the race with loads of new learning and hopeful thinking for the end of the global pandemic.
During that time, I embraced numerous ways and perspectives to help me better understand everyone that I had to engage with throughout the ordeal. There sure were a number of learning curves, but I pushed through until the end. Amidst all the bleak passing of the months, I again came across the JET Programme which I have been considering for years. It seemed that despite the bleak future that the pandemic is presenting, I found the courage to make a move and try something new.
Why it took so long?
Even as a young girl, I tried my best to excel and do well in each task I get. I am highly focused in my academics, however, building confidence in my own skills was an entirely different story. This even intensified when I graduated and finally had to face the real struggles of being an adult who needed to finance her way through each day.
I found myself in jobs that needed my communication skills at its best; which means mostly having a great spoken language skills, which I have never truly been confident of (that was why I took up writing as my major instead). Gradually, I learned to embrace my own limitations and worked my way to heighten the strengths I have gained. This is one reason for taking my sweet time before jumping into a new phase in my professional life. I needed to be in a secured job as I needed to help my family. Now, however, as I finally see that my family starting to be more stable as my parents work and my two siblings have also began their professional careers. I think that I am ready to venture out of my comfort zone. This is how I got to applying to the JET Programme.
What is the JET Programme?
The Japan Exchange Teaching Programme (JET Programme) started in 1987 which a goal of building “mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the people of other nations.” Even though this program has been going on for decades, the Philippines was also able to send representatives in 2014. So, Filipino JET ALTs are still relatively new to this organization.
The JET Programme hopes to help in the foreign language education of Japan while also engaging in a growing international exchange experiences within the local communities. From the four (4) countries in 1987, the JET Programme now has participants coming from 57 different countries around the globe.
How am I doing now?
In the past nine months, I tried to work my way through the school system. There are a number of challenges that I had to overcome especially with communication as I couldn’t speak Japanese. Most of the teachers in my assigned schools could only speak in Japanese. There were a few who could easily understand my English but couldn’t respond in English. Nonetheless, everything was a great learning experience. I was able to find ways on how to have my ideas across while at the same time doing my best to make my co-teachers feel more comfortable in engaging with me. We both had difficulties in using another language but we do understand the key points and skills that we have to meet to help our learners.
Aside from the language difficulties, I also had to learn to read between or even beyond the various Japanese gestures and politeness. I observed that most of the people I work with couldn’t find the means to say their comments or even their requests directly. It was difficult at first because I felt like I was wasting a lot of precious time going around a single topic because I couldn’t fully understand what my supervisors or other homeroom teachers wanted to do. But gradually, I was able to meet them in the middle by being more proactive so they didn’t have to worry about raising some questions or clarifications from me. Moreover, another concern I got from working in both elementary and junior high schools, is that not everyone works fast and efficiently. 😀
I mean everyone is busy, however, many of my teachers get surprised when I finish a task way too earlier than they expected. This especially happened in my first base school (elementary) as it felt more of a burden to my supervisor when I finish the given task quickly because there was a need to think of another task to give me. Moreover, many of my colleagues do take their time so they could fill the needed period with “work.” Maybe this is mostly just evident in my town as I am not in a bustling city. Everything seemed so laid back, though my junior high school setup now seems a bit different as everyone really is busy with a packed schedule because of clubs.
I still have a lot to learn, but will take each day at a time. I will try to post some updates of what happened in the past nine months which, honestly, just came by so quickly.